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What if … Mike Willingham designed the ‘Spirit of Detroit’

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One of the most symbolic figures in Detroit is the ‘Spirit of Detroit.’ Today artist Michael Willingham gives his interpretation. What if … Mike Willingham designed the Spirit of Detroit?

In 1955 the city of Detroit commissioned artist Marshall Fredericks to create the ‘Spirit of Detroit.’ The statue was completed in 1958 as the second largest bronze statue in the world. Fredericks created the piece inspired by the 2 Corinthians 3:17 quote ‘Now the Lord is that Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is Liberty.’

“My vision for the Spirit of Detroit is the Warrior,” Michael Willingham. “(Rapper Young) Jeezy says Detroit is the home of the hustler. The hustler has a warrior spirit, and that’s a spirit that won’t stop,” Willingham. The make-up of the Detroit warrior has many components: the athlete, the fighter, the endurance, and the look.

Spirit of Detroit, Antonio Gates
Spirit of Detroit, Antonio Gates

If Detroit were represented by an athlete, Mike’s would be Antonio Gates. Gates is the NFL superstar Tight End for the San Diego Chargers. He also is a Detroit born hero. In 1996 he led the Central High School Trailblazers to the only PSL won championship of the decade. “GOAT is from the hood. I remember hooping with him back in the day when I played more,” Willingham. Even in high school Antonio was recognized as an all-around athlete. The nickname GOAT carried with him throughout the city. He stands today as one of the only future NFL hall of fame football players who did not play college football. Antonio’s story of walking on to the San Diego Charger team for a Monday Night Football game and catching multiple touchdown passes matches Detroit’s spirit. Detroiters have always been unexpected, phenomenal, and world renown.

“300 Spartan’s have the uniform I’d have on a Detroit warrior. The cape and the shield protect you, but you can easily battle without it,” Willingham. The film 300 which chronicles Spartan battles displays a soldier shielded and cloaked for battle. The ease to maneuver with or without both is the versatility of Detroiters.

300 Spartan, Zulu Spear, Shaka Zulu
300 Spartan, Zulu Spear, Shaka Zulu

“A Detroit warrior would have a weapon that’s used for close kills. Hand to hand combat and tough situations is what Detroit was built n. I see the Detroit warrior having the Zulu spear,” Willingham. The African general Shaka Zulu that ruled an empire of southern Africa created a series of weaponry and war tactics to excel in battle. The Zulu spear was specifically designed for close kills in combat. Detroit’s harsh winters, hot summers, and tempered culture builds tough people ready for battle.

I believe Mike’s image of this warrior is an example of the fight Detroit has. This warrior would have the tools to win any war. This will match the struggles Detroit’s endured.

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